Joel Embiid put up 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 97-92 win over the Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday, but according to Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, that’s not enough to qualify as “great.”
“He’s the toughest player in the league to match up with,” Barkley said of Embiid on TNT, “but we don’t talk about him the way we talk about Luka [Doncic], Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Anthony Davis, James [Harden]. We don’t ever say that about him. It’s frustrating for me, because I picked the Sixers to get to the finals....”
Then Barkley, the Hall of Famer and analyst, all but wrote off his former team just 25 games into the season, saying the Sixers (18-7) — who have won three in a row and are 13-0 at home — “got no chance” to make it to the finals.
He added of his preseason prediction: “I don’t want to jump totally off, but I’m in the air.”
Then Shaq jumped in, saying the NBA on TNT panel’s analysis of Embiid is less about criticism, more about providing “information” to help get him “to the next level.”
“If we’re like all these other people who do sports shows, that’s criticism. We’re not criticizing,” O’Neal said. “We telling you [that] you could be great. You ain’t playin’ hard enough.”
He continued: “Twenty-two ain’t enough to get you to the next level. You wanna be great? Or you wanna be good? If you wanna be good, keep giving 22 points. You wanna be great? Give me 28. Give me 30.”
Shaq and Barkley have shamed Embiid before. Last spring, the duo went in on his toughness and physicality while Embiid said he had a virus that was hindering his play during the playoff series against Toronto.
“He walks around like he’s on his death bed,” Barkley said. “He drains the energy out of that team... As a star player, you can never show weakness.”
The Sixers travel to Boston Thursday to take on the Celtics (17-5), who are unbeaten at home.